‘Big catch’ boost for shrimp play

Alexandra O'Toole and Sarah Stone
Alexandra O'Toole and Sarah Stone

A Fylde-based arts organisation is celebrating a funding ‘big catch’ which will allow it to write and produce a new play on the history of shrimping off the Lytham coast.

The cash boost worth a total of £8,750 comes from Arts Council England’s Grants for Arts programme, Lancashire County Council’s First Bite Fund and Fylde Council’s Community Projects Fund - and now the team behind it is looking for input from those with experience of the industry to make sure the fictional story is based on as much fact as possible.

Entitled Shiller, is set amid the rise of Lytham’s shrimping industry and Lytham-based Fable Arts plan to take to tour it around venues across Lancashire during 2017.

Fable Arts founder Alexandra O’Toole, who is a writing the drama, says the production will create employment opportunities for four artists with skills in scriptwriting, theatre direction and set design as well as enabling Fable to engage new audiences in a key aspect of the Fylde’s history.

“In addition, the funds will go towards the development of an outreach programme for 16-19 year olds in sixth form education across Lancashire, which will marry historical fact with personal first hand stories and memories of Lytham’s shrimping heritage to illustrate the industry’s rise and fall,” said Alexandra.

Alexandra O’Toole and director Sarah Stone, who worked together previously on family play, The Shrimper’s Daughter at last summer’s Lytham Festival, will be working with Lytham Heritage Archive to determine a definitive history of Lytham’s shrimping industry.

To assist them in their research, they want the public of Lytham St Annes and the wider Fylde area to help them as they gather memories and stories of life working in Lytham’s shrimping industry.

Alexandra added: “By combining factual information with a fictional narrative, theatre and educational workshops, we hope to bring history to life and to engage new and younger audiences from across Lancashire in this important aspect of Fylde’s story.

“So if you are or, were, a shrimper, a picker, a wholesaler, or retailer of Lytham shrimpers, or you have connections with Lytham’s shrimping industry through a family member, we’d love for you to share your memories with us.”

A day of story sharing will take place at Fable Arts HQ, based at Lytham Hall, next Thursday, February 11. Anyone who would like to take part should contact Alex O’Toole at alex@fablearts.org.uk or on 07854 951266.

The name Shiller comes from ‘shilling’, a local slang term for the process of picking and shelling shrimps.